Quotes from Players and Experts

As told to me

“You are supposed to be tough. You are supposed to play through pain. You are not supposed to cry. We are taught that early on in the game as kids. Tough sport. Brutal sport. It’s like the gladiator. People want to see the big hits. They wind up on Sports Center. And as a player, you don’t want to admit you are injured.”
–Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson
“How do I define concussion? It’s an alteration of mental status brought on by a biomechanical force that may or may not include unconsciousness. Often there is no unconsciousness. In the spectrum of concussion, amnesia is worse than confusion, unconsciousness is worse than amnesia.”
“On the overall spectrum of head trauma, football cases are mild for the most part. Serious injuries can and do happen, but most resolve themselves within 7 to 10 days with no lasting effects. The major concern is Second Impact Syndrome, when a player goes back too early and gets hit again. This can be very dangerous and lead to massive swelling of the brain.”
“Multiple concussions are the big concern in football, compared to war-related head trauma, which usually involves one battlefield blast and the impact of the head against a wall, the ground or other hard surface.”
–Dr. James P. Kelly, Director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for treating veterans with TBI and former neurologist for the Chicago Bears
“I’m fortunate to have found out early, in 1990, just two years after I retired, that I have neurological damage. I try to manage it. I know what can trigger headaches and try to avoid it. I have short term memory problems, so I make a special effort to remember people and names. I have to work harder, but it’s important.”
–Hall of Fame linebacker, Harry Carson
“A study of 2,500 retired NFL players found that those who had at least three concussions during their careers had triple the risk of clinical depression as those who had no concussions. Those who recalled one or two concussions were 1 1/2 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression.”
–Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, research director of the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes
“The accumulation of many hits may be more significant than a few big ones. We have seen a number of hits over 100 g that we expected would lead to concussion and didn’t. And there are lesser hits, in the 50 to 60g range, that led to players being taken out of the game. We believe that in many of these cases the players probably had a minor concussion from an earlier hit and played through it, creating the perfect storm where a lesser hit has a much greater effect.”
“For some people, one concussion is enough—they are slow to recover and they should give up the sport. But most athletes recover in 7 to 10 days.”
“The question is whether, even after they are asymptomatic, players might still be recovering in ways we don’t know much about. A type of EEG, called Motor Evoked Potentials, is a research tool that lacks specificity and reliability for clinical use, but it has shown that up to 3 or 4 weeks after concussion and the disappearance of symptoms, there are subtle differences in brain activity—suggesting recovery may not be complete. This is the stuff that nags at any doctor making return-to-play decisions.”
–Dr. Robert Cantu, Professor of Neurosurgery at Boston University Medical School and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopothy (CTE) which has been studying the brains of deceased NFL players